Off Sick Project

Welcome to the Off Sick Project

The Off Sick Project considered the role of narrative in understandings of illness both in the past and the present. It incorporated historical and literary research with present-day stories of illness gathered from the communities of South Wales.

The Project was a collaborative research venture by the Universities of Cardiff and Glamorgan, led by the Collaborative Interdisciplinary Study of Science, Medicine and the Imagination Research Group (CISSMI) and directed by Professors Keir Waddington (Cardiff) and Martin Willis (formerly Glamorgan, now Westminster). The Project also employed a postdoctoral research assistant: Dr Richard Marsden.

The Project focused on the medical encounter, specifically the experiences of family members and carers who supported someone with a severe illness. It explored how people in these positions turn those experiences into narratives. In particular, the Project was interested in narratives that deal with visits to medical institutions such as hospitals, since it is as a response to institutional medicine that the idea of the illness narrative first came to the attention of scholars both in the history of medicine and medical humanities.

Throughout 2011 and 2012 the Project gathered narratives from voluntary participants who wished to share their stories of illness with wider audiences. These participants were largely drawn from Cardiff and the wider South Wales area. In addition the Project staged a number of academic and public events – lectures, a seminar series, a day-long workshop, and a poetry and medicine colloquium – and also disseminated that work to a wider group of stakeholders at public museum open days, the National Eisteddfod and academic conferences.

The project resulted in a number of outputs both academic and public. The Project Team have edited a special issue of the Journal of Literature and Science (6.2 [2013]), that includes an article based on the Project’s participant narratives, have presented aspects of the Project via conference papers, and curated and staged an exhibition of the Project’s work.

That Exhibition – a key component of the Project – has been digitized and can be viewed here on the Project website. The Project concluded its active work at the end of 2012, but the insights gained continue to inform the work of the Project Team.